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Kumari Timsina knows full well the challenges of settling into a foreign land. As a former refugee herself, she went through the process of finding her feet until finally, she is now thriving and able to help others with their own journey of settling in.

A former Bhutanese refugee from the Kingdom of Bhutan, Kumari had to flee her home country with her family. The experience was hard, and they encountered many obstacles. Her experience and genuine desire to help others have made her an asset to the Palmerston North branch of the New Zealand Red Cross where she is now a Settlement Case Worker.

Kumari shares, “After doing English language classes, I joined Red Cross as a Settlement Case Worker in 2016. At the beginning, I only started working with my own Bhutanese community because we speak the same language. But slowly, Jenny my supervisor, started offering me different ethnic groups to work with – helping them to settle into their new place.”

The New Zealand Red Cross supports refugee background families during their first year of arriving in the country by connecting them with different services and helping them integrate into their new community. Jenny Pepworth, Pathways To Settlement manager, explains, “We have a team of social workers, case workers and cross-cultural workers who connect refugee  background families with English classes, enrolling with a GP, signing up with Work and Income, and providing some orientation to the local community.”

To enhance Kumari’s practice and her ability to support her clients, Red Cross enrolled her in the Apprenticeship in Social Services programme with Industry Training Organisation, Careerforce. This was a self-paced programme with online learning and on-the-job assessments with the support of a Careerforce Apprenticeship Advisor providing pastoral care. Being a mother of two young children aged 7 and 9, the programme worked in well with Kumari’s other responsibilities.

Find out more about the Apprenticeship in Social Services

She was rightfully proud and excited when she completed the programme saying, “I’m so glad to have my first qualification in New Zealand. I’ve done a Bachelor’s degree in Business in Nepal but this is the first thing that I have done in New Zealand. I feel very lucky and I’m very thankful to Jenny at Red Cross and Warren at Careerforce. I feel I have learnt quite a lot especially about New Zealand services and how to connect with them.”

After completing the apprenticeship, Kumari finds herself thinking and working differently. “Before I did this study, I wasn’t very aware. I was thinking in my way and telling clients to do this as part of the plan. But after doing the Careerforce [programme], I learnt to look at their view and their perspective and understand why they were doing that.”

“I also found new agencies to make connections with. I gained an insight on why to connect and how to connect with these agencies to support my clients.”

Jenny finds Kumari has blossomed and gained confidence as a result of the apprenticeship programme. “I think Kumari has been more aware of the importance of empowering her clients. She’s much more familiar with strengths-based practice and she has really learnt to identify and acknowledge when her client is on a pathway to achieving specific outcomes and just walking alongside them. It made her very conscious of doing it at a pace that her clients were comfortable with. She was also able to adapt her style of working to suit each different client.”

Palmerston North-based Careerforce Apprenticeship Advisor, Warren Hastie, feels privileged to have been able to support Kumari through her apprenticeship. “It was nothing but a privilege to support someone with her level of integrity, insight, empathy and dedication. I know it means a great deal for Kumari and her family for her to have gained the NZ Certificate in Health & Wellbeing (Social Services) Level 4 and she is extremely grateful for being offered the opportunity to gain a professional qualification here in her new home.”

Kumari feels fuelled and is already looking into further professional development to add to her toolkit. She is also pleased that her family have become   inspired (by her achievement, with both her husband and sister-in-law now having decided to pursue on-the-job training as well through Careerforce.

New Zealand resettles 1500 refugees annually through the Refugee Quota Programme, being part of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) alongside 37 other countries. UNHCR is the international organisation responsible for protecting refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people – and assisting with their repatriation, integration or resettlement into another country. and seeking durable solutions for them. Here in New Zealand They are resettled in eight regions across the country including Auckland, Waikato, Manawatu, Wellington, Nelson, Blenheim Christchurch, Dunedin, and Invercargill.

Read Kumari’s story in the Manawatu Guardian

Find out more about the Apprenticeship in Social Services